After a fall tour that reached a peak of epic proportions on Halloween 1996 when Phish performed “Remain in Light” in Atlanta (see TMIPH October 1996), Phish took a day off and resumed touring.
Their first performance of the month took place on November 2nd, at Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida. The band was joined that night by special guest percussionist, Karl Perazzo and they opened the show with an extended Ya Mar which was included on a later Album Network national radio broadcast of highlights from the concert. The band had recruited Perazzo to perform the percussion parts on Halloween’s “Remain in Light” and elected to keep him on for a couple additional shows. The second set at Coral Sky began with a showpiece Crosseyed and Painless which segued perfectly into Run Like an Antelope. Other second-set highlights of the show and broadcast included Waste, Harry Hood and A Day in the Life. Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band joined Phish for the encore, Funky Bitch.
Karl’s last show with Phish was November 3rd at Gainesville, Florida, where he again joined the band for the entire show. After bidding Karl farewell and taking a couple days off, the band continued the tour at the Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee on November 6th and the next night at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. The show on November 7th at Rupp Arena featured the tour’s only Weigh and a legendary Bathtub Gin. On November 8th at Champaign, Illinois’ Assembly Hall, the band began the show with Runaway Jim > Axilla > All Things Reconsidered > Mound – neither Axilla or All Things Reconsidered had been played in over a year.
Phish performed the next night at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan and again on the 11th at newly-constructed Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, where they kicked off the second set with Timber (Jerry) and finished it with Slave to the Traffic Light. On November 12th, Phish performed their first “official” national anthem, singing The Star Spangled Banner before a Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Portland Trailblazers basketball game at The Target Center in Minneapolis. Later that evening, they attended a party for The Artist Formerly Known as Prince at a VH-1/MTV party at Paisley Park Studios to celebrate the release of his “Emancipation” album.
The next night, Phish returned to The Target Center with instruments, beginning their second set with the first truly experimental rendition of 2001, which segued into an equally jammed-out Suzy Greenberg. November 14th found the band at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. There, they played the first rendition of Demand in nearly a year, and their last to-date. On November 15th, they played at Kiel Center in Saint Louis. The second set at Kiel consisted of songs which began with the letter “M”, including Makisupa Policeman, Maze, McGrupp, My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own, Mike’s Song and Mean Mr. Mustard by The Beatles, which was played for the first time and featured special guest John Popper. Popper appeared in costume, playing the part of Mean Mr. Mustard. Trey joked that the show had been “brought to you by the letter ‘M’ and the number 420.” The Funky Bitch encore also included Popper on harmonica. On November 16th, Phish made their second-ever appearance in the state of Nebraska – this time at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. The Omaha show included a rendition of Kung with the Vibration of Life, which Trey said was “written by God”. The show’s strange tone continued with Catapult, after which longtime lighting technician Leigh Fordham was recognized in the lyrics of Axilla and Harry Hood. For the encore in Omaha, the band played their first performance of Grand Funk Railroad’s classic about a band visiting Omaha, We’re an American Band.
The band appeared next on November 18th at Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. The second set started off with 2001 > Simple > Swept Away > Steep > Scent of a Mule. Local trumpeter and mutual friend of Colonel Bruce Hampton, Gary “El Buho” Gazaway joined the band for Tweezer, Hello My Baby, Tweezer Reprise and Llama. El Buho stuck around for the second of a two-song encore, Johnny B. Goode. Phish played in Kansas City, Missouri on November 19th at the Kansas Municipal Auditorium where they made the first-ever dedication of the Vibration of Life (to the crew and Bob Neumann). The Kansas Vibe of Life was sandwiched between Bathtub Gin and You Enjoy Myself. Next came two days off as the band and crew traveled across the country.
The western portion of the tour began on November 22nd at Spokane Arena in Washington, after which Phish headed for Vancouver and their first Canadian show in over a year. After a minor delay while Trey and Fish got to know Customs Agents at the border, they went on to perform at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia on the 23rd. During the first set the first set at Vancouver, the band performed Tim O’Brien’s Mid-Highway Blues, a song Trey explained they learned while crossing the border. The first part of Vancouver’s second set was a virtually non-stop combination of The Curtain > Mike’s Song > Simple > Makisupa Policeman > Axilla > Weekapaug Groove > Catapult. The tour returned to the United States with a show the next night in Portland, Oregon.
After the Portland show on November 24th (the same day the television special Phish “The Clifford Ball” was aired on MTV), the band spent a couple days days jamming at Stepping Stone Recording Studio with Billy Breathes’ Producer Steve Lillywhite and Engineer John Siket. On the 27th Phish played at Key Arena in Seattle. In honor of local Jimi Hendrix’s birthday, they closed the first set with Axis, Bold As Love. The second set of the Seattle show featured Down With Disease > Jesus Left Chicago and later a Tweezer with a jam that turned briefly into Sweet Emotion before morphing back into Down With Disease.
November 29th found Phish at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The second set there began with Wilson > Simple > Sparks > Sparkle. This was the first Sparks in over two years. The next show took place on the 30th at Arco Arena, where Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McCuen joined the band on banjo for Old Home Place and Uncle Pen during the first set. Peter Apfelbaum punctuated the second set with his saxophone work with the band on Timber (Jerry) and an inspiring rendition of Taste, followed by Funky Bitch. Apfelbaum and McCuen, now on a lap slide guitar, both accompanied the band to turn the acapella Amazing Grace which followed into an instrumental jam. Both guests also joined the band for the Possum encore.
The band continued South for more shows in California and Arizona before coming to a close with the Phish first show in Las Vegas at the original Aladdin Theatre.